The Missing Link - School Leadership and Student Outcomes in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

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Principal Investigator
Professor Allan Walker
Director of APCLC, The Education University of Hong Kong
Professor Christopher Day
Dr. Paula Kwan
Dr. Chen Shuangye
Funding Source
General Research Fund
Project Duration


Although the educational reform environment in Hong Kong remains crowded, two key issues are never far from the centre of debate. These are the quality and place of school leadership and the improvement in student outcomes. This study is based on the premise that if school leadership is to hold real meaning it must be framed predominantly in terms of student outcomes, and it brings together these two issues for the first time in research in Hong Kong. Drawing on a current landmark project in the UK, and on previous research into school leadership and a range of student outcomes in Hong Kong secondary schools. Specifically, it will determine the extent to which variation in how leadership is conceptualized and practiced. It will also determine both the direct and indirect influence of leadership on in-school factors and student outcomes. A mixed method approach will combine quantitative and qualitative methods to provide both a comprehensive picture of the relationship across Hong Kong secondary schools as well as rich descriptions drawn from selected case study schools. Outcomes of the research are expected to enhance theoretical understanding of school leadership generally and expand knowledge of leadership effects specifically in Hong Kong. Findings can be subsequently used to inform education policy makers and hold tremendous potential for future school leadership development programmes in Hong Kong.

  1. Ko, J., & Walker, A. (2014). Transformational schools leadership: Principals’ strategic vision and teacher development practices. In Lee, J., & C. Marsh, C (Eds.), Asia's high performing education systems: The case of Hong Kong (pp.151-174). London: Routledge.
  2. Walker, A., Lee, M., & Bryant, D. (2014, Jan 17). How much of a difference do principals make? An analysis of between-schools variation in academic achievement in Hong Kong public secondary schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement. doi:10.1080/09243453.2013.875044
  3. Ko, J., Hallinger, P., & Walker, A. (2014, Feb 11). Exploring whole school vs. subject department Improvement in Hong Kong secondary schools.School Effectiveness and School Improvement.
    . doi: 10.1080/09243453.2014.882848
  4. Walker, A., Bryant, D., & Lee, M. (2013). International patterns in principal preparation: Commonalities and variations in pre-service programmes. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 41(4), 405-434. doi:10.1177/1741143213485466
  5. Lee, M., Walker, A., & Chui, Y. L. (2012). Contrasting effects of instructional leadership practices on student learning in a high accountability context. Journal of Educational Administration50(5), 586-611. doi: 10.1108/09578231211249835
  6. Bryant, D. A., Walker, A., & Lee, M. (2013). The impact of international, national, and local forces on the enactment of quality leadership preparation programs. In M. Brundrett (Ed.), Principles of school leadership (2nd Ed., pp. 221-243). London: Sage.
  7. Ko, J., Hallinger, P., & Walker, A. (2012). Exploring school improvement in Hong Kong secondary schools. Peabody Journal of Education, 87(2), 216-234. doi: 10.1080/0161956X.2012.664474    
  8. Walker, A., & Ko, J. (2011). Principal leadership in an era of accountability: A perspective from the Hong Kong context. School Leadership & Management, 31(4), 369-392. doi:10.1080/13632434.2011.606269
  9. Qian, H. Y., & Walker, A. (2011). Leadership for learning in China: The political and policy context. In T. Townsend & J. Macbeath (Eds.), The international handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 209-225). Netherlands: Springer.
  10. Walker, A., & Wang, X. J. (2011). Same mother, different lives: The social organization of leadership for learning across three Chinese societies In T. Townsend & J. MacBeath (Eds.), The international handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 1083-1106). Netherlands: Springer.
  11. Qian, H. Y., & Walker, A. (2011). The “gap” between policy intent and policy effect: An exploration of the interpretations of school principals in China. In T. Huang & A. Wiseman (Eds.), The Impact and Transformation of Education Policy in China, International Perspectives on Education and Society Series (Vol. 15) (pp. 187-208). Bingley, UK: Emerald.
  12. Walker. A., & Ko, J. (June, 2011). School Reports 1-48 of “Missing Link: Student outcomes and school leadership in HK secondary schools[Confidential] Submitted to RGC project schools 1-48. Hong Kong, The Joseph Lau Luen Hung Charitable Trust Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change.
  13. Walker, A. (2010). Building and leading learning cultures. In T. Bush, L. Bell, & D. Middlewood (Eds.), The principles of educational leadership & management (2nd Ed., pp. 176-198). London: Sage.
  14. Kwan, P., & Walker, A. (2011, April). Linking leadership practices, school conditions and student outcomes in Hong Kong secondary schools.Paper presented at 2011 AERA Annual Meeting: Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Goods, April 8-12, New Orleans, Louisiana.
  15. Walker, A. (2010, March). Designing & leading a learning school: Aligning conditions that count. Keynote paper presented at Teaching and Learning Conference of Dalian Education University, March 9, Dalian, China.
  16. Walker, A. (2010, March). Nurturing a Learning Culture in Asian School: Conditions that Count.  Invited Seminar at Fudan University. March 5, Shanghai, China.